The creators behind series “Tuca & Bertie,” “Gordita Chronicles,” and “Whistleblower” have issued statements alleging the Warner Bros. Discovery merger has had disastrous effects on female POC showrunners.
The statements, published as an addendum to a December 21 Writers Guild of America report on the effects of mega-mergers, are titled “How the Warner Bros. Discovery Merger Hurts Workers and Diversity.” The report claims the WBD merger de-prioritized female-led series featuring stars of color and ultimately led to the shows’ cancellations.
“The casualties of this mega-merger include numerous projects created by, featuring and/or centering the experiences of women and people of color,” the statement reads, citing multiple projects “including ‘Batgirl,’ one of very few mainstream superhero films to feature a Latina lead actress; ‘Full Frontal’ with Samantha Bee, one of a handful of woman-hosted late-night shows; ‘Gordita Chronicles,’ a series about a Dominican immigrant family whose showrunner was a Latina woman; ‘Tuca & Bertie,’ an animated series featuring two lead women of color, and ‘Chad,’ a series about Middle Eastern Americans created by and starring Iranian American comedian Nasim Pedrad” have been canceled.
The comments are in a new “Broken Promises Bulletin” of the report, adding that “less than a year later, the company has instead canceled, pulled, or written off $2 billion in content and laid off hundreds of workers” since the merger was closed. A majority of that content was led by POC, as the report claims. “The Warner Bros. Discovery merger sharply illustrates how consolidation increases the power of gatekeepers at the expense of marginalized voices,” the statement reads.
Creator and executive producer of “Tuca & Bertie” Lisa Hanawalt wrote, “I originally created ‘Tuca & Bertie’ for Netflix, but when they cancelled it after just one season, we fought to get the series picked up at Warner’s Adult Swim network. The women-led series had been a cult hit and a critical darling — the Warner execs knew it needed advertising support and time to grow viewers in the male-dominated adult animation space. But the merger went through right before the most recent season launched, and almost everyone who worked on the ‘Tuca & Bertie’ marketing team was laid off. Then several of the show’s main executives at Adult Swim and HBO Max left in the turmoil. Planned marketing projects to promote the new season didn’t happen. Then we learned the show had been cancelled. It’s already harder for shows centered on women, and this merger cost us the support we needed to thrive.”
“Gordita Chronicles” creator and executive producer Claudia Forestieri added, “I got into television to counter the negative mainstream stereotypes about Latino communities and tell stories like ‘Gordita Chronicles,’ which features a young Dominican girl who immigrates with her family to Miami. The showrunner and I did everything in our power to set the show up for success, and the first season was showered with positive reviews and strong viewership numbers. But after the merger, HBO Max was given a new mandate from its Discovery leadership to cut costs and ‘Gordita Chronicles’ was cancelled just five weeks after first airing, and will now even be removed from the platform. The studio executives claimed the cancellation reflected HBO ‘rebranding’—by implication, away from shows about Latino families. This merger has provided pretty stark and immediate evidence that industry consolidation not only harms diversity and inclusion, but can also contribute to the erasure of U.S. Latinos.”
The creator and executive producer of “Whistleblower,” Moisés Zamora, shared, ” I created a drama that focused on women lawyers and advocates who fought against a culture of sexual harassment and corruption in the U.S. military, achieving historic gains after the murder of Mexican-American soldier Vanessa Guillén at Fort Hood. After a competitive bidding process with multiple outlets, I sold Whistleblower to HBO Max in February 2021. During development, we received only compliments from our executives. The leads were three BIPOC women, and it was a story I was excited to tell. Despite it all, the series was cancelled soon after the merger, before it went into production. The press speculation is that the new company is focusing more on what’s seen as ‘Middle America’ content. But Black, Asian, and Latinx communities are Middle America too.”
The WGA report concludes that “the latest industry speculation is that Comcast may next seek to acquire Warner Bros. Discovery” and it’s the “absent government intervention” that perpetuates the environment of conglomerates.
HBO Max recently announced that POC-led cast “Gossip Girl” was given the ax, with creator Joshua Safran publicly announcing the series is looking for another platform.
Read the full WGA report here.
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